The Ongoing Revolution in the Media Economy

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Despite the downturn and the persistence of legacy thinking, the future for the production and distribution of compelling stories and important information is bright. The creative possibilities enabled by digital technologies, the open web and the app economy – in association with those legacy publications now looking to a future beyond print – are being continually enlarged. If we pursue multiple modes of distribution and make them serve the modes of information, then, in conjunction with new ways of thinking about business models, we are in for an exciting if bumpy ride.

via David Campbell.

There Are 9 Comments On This Article.

  1. Ambrose Pierce

    All these new media pundits–Jeff Jarvis, Seth Godin, Michael Wolff, and Chris Anderson (Wired editor, not the photographer)–have been perpetuating this myth now for years, and David Campbell has taken up the baton. The problem is if you look at the internet in terms of Conduits (websites, blogs, news sites, etc.) and Content (words, pictures, graphics and video), the number of conduits by far outweigh the number of ad dollars being spent, which is why many of the traditional media outlets have fallen by the wayside, and why many continue to struggle. Content creators hardly figure into the equation any more and have taken the biggest hit. Take for example the notion of exclusivity. In the old days, when a photographer shot for a publication, his/her images were exclusive to the publication’s subscribers. This is no longer the case. Those images are now available to the world wide web, so there is no exclusivity. In terms of a sustainable business model, this is bad for the original Conduit, and bad for the Content creator. That content gets ripped, recycled, re-purposed, remixed, passed along, and linked to by 3rd-party Conduits and an endless supply of parasitic bloggers, without additional compensation to the original Conduit and Content creator. Further, while ad spending remains relatively static, and the number of Conduits continues to grow at a staggering pace (remember, anyone can create a blog), I think we have to look beyond “multiple modes” of distribution and find a business model that is truly sustainable for the Content creator. To say “the future for the production and distribution of compelling stories and important information is bright” is naive at best. Putting up paywalls isn’t going to work, it’s too late for that. But there has to be a better solution that protects the interests of Content creators.

  2. Ambrose:

    Your distinction between conduits and content is a valuable one and chimes with the distinction between modes of information and modes of distribution I have tried to highlight as an essential starting point.

    However, if you take that as a starting point, as I think is essential, then hoping for a return to the economics of exclusivity and scarcity is, at best, misplaced. One might even say naive. That is because the business model built on exclusivity could only function when the mode of distribution it was tied to was hegemonic. That is not the case anymore, as you clearly recognize.

    To say “the future for the production and distribution of compelling stories and important information is bright” is to my mind a statement of fact. But note that it refers to production and distribution – not to remuneration. That, as we all now, is much more difficult. You are spot on about pay walls precisely because they attempt to impose conditions of scarcity in the context of abundance. The issue, then, is how to leverage the benefits of distribution so that people can make a living and produce the good work. If you go back to some of my earlier posts, you will see some arguments about this and how it is working for some content creators, especially those at the forefront of changes in the music industry. There are better solutions but they require some new thinking.

  3. Exclusivity is less necessary when uniqueness is allowed, though some people will still want that special feeling of exclusiveness. You might look more at the rise of niche markets, instead of the WalMartization of mainstream media.

  4. Ambrose Pierce

    @David Campbell, I guess by stating that “the future of production and distribution of compelling stories and important information is bright” I read that as implying remuneration. After all, you can’t have production without money. This is the part of the equation that is completely forgotten. Production does not come out of the ether, it requires time, money, and resources. Further, while I think we are in agreement on most things, to suggest that modes of distribution are no longer hegemonic is foolhardy at best. Look at Google, Youtube, and Facebook. Funny, Mark Zuckerberg has been dubbed a modern-day Ceasar–I wonder why. These are very powerful organizations whose core business model is crowdsourcing free content. So what’s in it for the content creator? Forget about writing the next great American novel, build the next great American conduit. Add people like Lawrence “let’s-kill-copyright-protection” Lessig to the equation, and things don’t bode well for content creators at all.

  5. I think Gordon Moat has touched on the quintessential requirement for earning revenue from Internet content, that is, the niche market. While the Internet is a worldwide and therefore a broadcast marketplace, it also offers the opportunity to narrowcast to niches. That could be (and in my opinion will be) financially successful when two factors are present. First, the content will have to be excellent quality, highly informative, and affordable. Second, wireless access will have to be instantaneous and ubiquitous. Such access will make the tablet computer a tool for use anywhere, anytime. High quality content will present well on a tablet. Couple those factors together and you have value. Where you have true value, unlike most things on web today, you will have subscribers — paying subscribers. The content will best be specialized and therefore marketed to niches.

  6. Ambrose:

    Being involved in creative production as well as analysis I’m familiar with the resources required to make that possible, so that dimension is far from forgotten. We seem to agree on much, yet the way some of the points come across to you suggest I need to make them clearer or they need to be read more carefully. For example, I don’t suggest that there are no longer powerful modes of distribution. In fact, my point is the opposite – that the internet has become the most powerful mode of distribution in recent memory. In the process what it has done is finally break print’s business model built on exclusivity because the mode of distribution it was tied to (control over print) is no longer hegemonic. So the point is about a specific mode of distribution, not all modes of distribution. Finally, I don’t think anyone who has read Lawrence Lessig would accept that he is out to “kill” all copyright protection. In Remix, for example, he details how the Creative Commons process is built on and requires a legal system of copyright. But he wants to face up to the challenges of the digital moment, so he begins the book by asking: “What should we do if we know that the future is one where perfect control over the distribution of ‘copies’ simply will not exist?” That seems to me the only realistic place to start, and the only place from which to begin thinking about how creativity is both enabled and protected. Ending copyright for content providers is certainly not his aim.

  7. iamnotasupertarphoto

    Ambrose:

    I think we have to look beyond “multiple modes” of distribution and find a business model that is truly sustainable for the Content creator.

    Diversification of income has always been a business model of virtue. The fact that someone is calling for “multiple modes” of distribution is valid only because it has not occurred for a while in this industry. The business of storytelling has closed itself off so strongly to protects its own interests that it has closed it off from the public.

    No audience = No income = No investment = No change = No evolution.

    You are completely right to ask how this chain of events can change for the better thus this is a business problem and not a creative one.

    Therefore I do not think it is about multiples modes of distribution as it is about connecting to multiple nodes of information within the social networking world to find out who benefits from the information given. I think you are spot on when bringing these “very powerful organizations whose core business model is crowdsourcing free content.” They have connected themselves to multiple nodes of free information that provide a benefit to their users and thus generate a huge amount of income by being smart at the basics: Cost vs Income.

    “To say “the future for the production and distribution of compelling stories and important information is bright” is naive at best.”

    Fair enough you say this yet I do not think it is naive. In business, the greatest opportunity comers from the point of maximum distress. The financial incentive is going to be huge when the solution that soooo many are looking for is developed. Venture capitalists are just waiting for the next opportunity to jump in with competition from Getty, Google, News Corp et al when it is invented.

    That time is close… business minds will be brought in when the photojournalists, PJ’ism agencies and academic world realise they need market experts to create… well a market!

    “But there has to be a better solution that protects the interests of Content creators.”

    Yes but the clue is in the language. Nobody is going to pay money to protect content creators as it serves only them. I know you did not say that yet I am taking you out of context to prove a point. The public and investors will invest in something that they can see themselves benefitting from by being part of it themselves. That is where the focus is.

    So it is about generating value by providing a service to people with a problem that needs to be solved, charging them for it and then creating a sustainable market by managing the economics of it.

    Its that simple and in the paragraph above, I have not used the words “story” of “photography”. Have faith that someone from the business world is going to work this all out because we all know there is a problem out there to be solved!

  8. iamnotasupertarphoto

    (Sorry all – my grammar is hopeless when typing off the top of my head!)